Local Businesses Benefit from Fifty Years of Workforce Development in Red Wing, MN

Local Businesses Benefit from Fifty Years of Workforce Development in Red Wing, MN Main Photo

16 Nov 2023


A dynamic, adaptable workforce is critical to a region’s economic capabilities. Red Wing, MN, relies on a collaborative relationship with Minnesota State College Southeast (MSC Southeast) for its unique and customizable training programs that draw students from near and far.

"We collaborate with local businesses spanning various industry sectors. Our objective is twofold: enhancing the skill sets of their existing workforce and offering a solution for staffing gaps," said Katie Hardyman, Director of Business Relations at MSC Southeast. “We remain closely attuned to the needs of our manufacturing partners."

MSC Southeast is a member of the Minnesota State System as a technical and community college part of the Minnesota State System with two campuses - Red Wing and Winona. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in Red Wing on September 29. MSC Southeast has a full array of offerings, from specific industry role certificates to two-year degrees and general courses, taught through in-person, PSEO and online platforms.

Advanced Manufacturing

MSC Southeast’s offerings under the Advanced Manufacturing umbrella showcase the school’s ability to work with local businesses to resolve workforce development concerns. 

The Mechatronics Technology Program prepares students to work in maintenance departments at companies of various sizes across a wide range of industries. Skills covered include electrical systems, hydraulics, welding and more. Local companies 3M, Valleycraft, Ardent Mills, Red Wing Shoes, Hearth & Home, Gemini and Pepin Manufacturing worked with Hardyman in 2020 to develop an Electro-Mechanical Technology Diploma. The program’s designed flexibility allows the companies to have employees earn certificates in specific sections if they cannot complete the entire credit-based diploma. Examples include a Pneumatics Course that covers 24 hours spread over several weeks and a Mechanical Power Class that requires four weeks.

“Many of these businesses do not have the luxury of having their employees away from their operations for the length of time necessary to complete the whole diploma program,” said Handyman. “Instead, we customize offerings so they can complete the certifications required for their current or expected roles.”

The Welding Technology Program is an accelerated welding program in a new lab built with the assistance provided by the Pathway to Prosperity Competitive Grant. A nearby business, Trinity Meyer, built the tables, MSC Southeast Winona campus students built the shields and many local businesses provide free scrap for students to train on.

“The curriculum was developed with industry input to cover the minimum requirements and hours necessary to apply for a welding job even if an individual comes in with zero experience,” said Hardyman. “The goal is to provide a glimpse into possible welding careers to individuals who typically face different barriers to the role.”

Student benefit

Of course, MSC Southeast places considerable effort in ensuring students can participate in its programs to gain the education, skills and career direction they seek at a refreshing level of  affordability. Individuals pursuing a degree or certification in Advanced Manufacturing can apply for fully covered tuition and support with non-academic expenses through a grant supplied by collaboration through Hiawatha Valley Adult Education, Workforce Development Inc., and Minnesota State College Southeast.

New in 2023, the Red Wing College Promise Program guarantees up to 70 credits of tuition-free education two-year education at MSC Southeast for qualifying students. Graduates of a Red Wing public high school who live in the Red Wing School District can have their tuition and fees covered, along with $500 per year for books and materials to help them on their way to completing any program taught at MSC Southeast. 

Other programs

Custom training is a big emphasis at MSC Southeast, either on-site or at the company’s location. Typical projects include specific employer roles like welding or farming applicator training to situational awareness like conflict resolution, mental health and first aid training. 

“We work with businesses to upskill their current staff because we realize credit programs can’t be everything for everyone,” said Hardyman. “We seek to fill the gaps in whatever an employer is facing quickly.”

MSC Southeast also makes a large impact outside of the Advanced Manufacturing world. Three separate programs - Band Instrument Repair, Guitar Repair and Building and Violin Repair  - bring students from around the world to learn how to build and repair musical instruments. The Nursing Program is undergoing a major reconstruction to simulate a hospital wing by 2024 to offer students educational possibilities ranging up to a Registered Nurse qualification.  

Red Wing Potential

Hardyman is proud of the collaborative nature she sees in the Red Wing business community. Local businesses like the YMCA, Red Wing Shoe store and Fair Trade Books hire MSC Southeast students to work part-time while they go to school, with rave reviews about their performance. MSC Southeast staff meet quarterly with organizations like the Red Wing Port Authority, City of Red Wing, Goodhue County, Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce, Red Wing Downtown Main Street and Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau to discuss community needs with an eye for Red Wing’s future. MSC Southeast participates with the Red Wing Area Manufacturers’ Association, an excellent showcase of how area businesses work together despite potential competitive arenas.

“These employers share their wins, losses and ideas despite their competition for employees because they know together they can raise Red Wing’s economic impact,” said Hardyman. 

Red Wing Port Authority understands the vital importance manufacturing has in Red Wing. Contact us today to learn more about manufacturing opportunities!

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